Not long ago, Keen Footwear was saddled with a paper-based process for communicating product information, in the form of linesheets, to its retailer customers. Keen didn’t do much B2B e-commerce before 2011, when it implemented enterprise resource planning software from business software provider SAP SE and began developing “a more robust B2B strategy,” says Tim Oligmueller, director of business intelligence.
The ERP system provided some automation for sharing electronic linesheets with retailers, and allowing them to more easily view and electronically order available products. But updating the products, quantities and prices available to retailers required shutting down the system, Oligmueller says.
Keen wanted to further automate its operations, and began exploring technology tools that could handle the process. One of the companies it found was NuOrder Inc., a B2B e-commerce platform vendor that manages linesheets, transactions with retailers, and the proposals Keen presents to retailers that describe product ranges and pricing available to each of them.
“We wanted to stop printing catalogs for retailers,” Oligmueller says. “To do that, we had to have a way to deliver linesheets online. Another reason we chose NuOrder is that it includes order proposal functionality. It’s not just about placing an order, it allows us to send a proposal of what we want retailers to buy. It saves the buyer time and limits the selection of what we want the buyer to see.”
NuOrder charges participating brands an annual fee ranging from as low as $7,000 to as high as $100,000 or more. A spokeswoman says the annual fee is designed to suit small as well as large brands, and depends on such factors as the number of sales reps that use the platform, the set of online features they license, the services they use, and the extent they integrate NuOrder into their own software systems for such operations as managing orders, product data, inventory and financial records. NuOrder charges no fees to retailers that receive the data.
The NuOrder technology enables Keen to personalize content by client and to group customers by the product assortment they are authorized to see, Oligmueller says. Such groupings can be set at the corporate level or by one of Keen’s 50 sales reps. Together those functions keep the retail customers updated about products and prevents them from seeing lines they can’t sell.
Many retailers now access linesheets, order products and view proposals through the Keen Pro portal provided by NuOrder on KeenFootwear.com. And Keen can now update products, quantities and prices any time.
Keen doesn’t reveal online or total sales, Oligmueller says, but the NuOrder platform has affected the retailer ordering process. Before Keen implemented NuOrder in 2014, the company received 80% of non-EDI orders through the older ordering system through its SAP ERP software, Oligmueller says. But customers caught on fast to the new tools. Within a year of implementing NuOrder the rate of orders coming through that system had dropped significantly to 43%. By its second full year that rate had dipped below 10%.
“While we encouraged our accounts to move from our old B2B platform, we did not require them to do so,” he says. “The new system was just so much easier to use that they moved on their own.”
The shoe manufacturer reviewed other similar platforms, but at the time they didn’t have the proposals function, Oligmueller says. Keen still uses the SAP system for its overseas customers, such as those in Japan, to obtain linesheets and order products.
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